Cybercrime Ecosystem: Everything Is for Sale

When discussing malware, we tend to focus on the technical aspect of how a specific Trojan operates on an infected system. The processes executed by a malware variant, ranging from how it latches onto an infected device to how it manipulates the user into providing it with credentials, are just a small subset of the cybercrime ecosystem. Roughly eight years ago, a single operator would be in charge of everything from coding the malware to distributing it, including setting up command-and-control (C&C) servers, identifying infection points, working with money mules and more. Today, the whole process, or at least each individual element, can be easily outsourced.

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Underground cybercrime forums offer professionals and amateurs alike a wide array of tools and services with varying prices and support levels. Some tools, such as malware samples, can be downloaded for free, while other elements of the fraud chain, such as cashing out via a mule account, come at a high cost due to scarce resources in the field. Almost any form of online fraud requires more than just one tool. Whether it is phishing, ransomware or financial crimeware, they need hosting sites, C&C servers and/or a cash-out methodology. Some underground services are now also sold as cloud services, offering easy access and added security.

The underground market is showing no signs of slowing down, but rather of adaptation to industry trends. Even services and tools described in the infographic above can be broken down and sold separately. For example, HTML injections, specific scripts, configuration services and more can all be purchased separately when designing the malware of choice. It is also worth noting that cybercriminals are not only discussing and selling financial fraud tools, but also advanced targeting tools and RATs, health care and insurance fraud tools and services and much more.

The current cybercrime ecosystem makes a wealth of options available to cybercriminals. Unfortunately, that drastically increases the scope and complexity of schemes that could target an organization. Thorough prevention and detection systems are needed to avoid these security problems, but they must be fortified with tools such as fraud protection for a comprehensive defense.

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Etay Maor

Executive Security Advisor, IBM Security

Etay Maor is an Executive Security Advisor at IBM Security, where he leads security and fraud fighting awareness and...